If there’s one company Aussie electricity retailers should strive to emulate, it’s Octopus Energy.
Originally a UK-based operation, Octopus has set the tone for the future of energy industries the world over, including Australia. From being named ‘Tech Company of the Year’ in 2020, to launching innovative products like the world’s first wind-dependent tariff, its accomplishments are almost too numerous to count1,2.
So why has Octopus seen such success where similarly ambitious companies have failed? It’s clear that their vision and creativity played a significant role, but the true underlying factor is something all retailers can begin to focus on today - customer centricity.
What is Customer Centricity?
Ostensibly, customer centricity is as simple as putting your customers or clients first. Though many companies claim to already do that, few actually take the time to ensure their business model, organisational structure, and value proposition reflects the philosophy.
Customer centric businesses aren’t satisfied with taking a token interest in the needs of their consumers, they are obsessed with them. Instead of devising products and adjusting their services in the ‘vacuum’ of their headquarters (or replicating those of their competitors), they spend the time to truly get to know the needs of the market, where their clients' pain points lie, and how they can best keep these people satisfied3.
Being customer-centric is a practice that in many ways is at odds with the traditional structures businesses find themselves adhering to, but the benefits it brings are undeniable.
Why Adopt a Customer Centric Approach?
To understand the benefits of a well-executed approach to customer centricity, it’s useful to turn our attention back to Octopus Energy.
Founded in 2015 as a subsidiary of Octopus Group, Octopus Energy was fueled by the ambition to take on the UK’s “big six” energy providers, namely British Gas, EDF Energy, E. ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE. It’s a task that would be considered Herculean by even the most well-funded organisations, but one that ultimately looks to have been fulfilled4.
The company works through a pod-based operations model, whereby each customer segment is handled by its own multi-skilled ‘pod’. Each collaborates with the ‘pods’ of other segments to deliver holistic solutions, promote staff ownership of tasks, and ultimately result in deeper consumer engagement.
Thanks in no small part to this unique system, and the customer-focus it fosters, the supplier is now the fastest growing in the UK. This enviable title was cemented last year when the startup was granted “double unicorn” status through investments from Origin Energy and Tokyo Gas. These giants in turn secured use of Octopus’ model, as well as their acclaimed technology platform - Kraken - for their own retail businesses5. Industry compatriots aren’t the only ones favouring the relative newcomer, either.
Global opinion and data company YouGov found that consumers are much more likely to recommend Octopus to a friend or colleague than any of the “big six”. It also found their customers are much more satisfied than those of the “big six”, and they’re also much more likely to purchase from Octopus again in the future6.
Among it's many accolades, Octopus Energy is the only energy supplier to be recommended by 'Which?' for four years running.
Along with investment, consumer trust, and heightened brand loyalty, their customer-first practice has fuelled another important element of Octopus’ enterprise - innovation. Due to their intimate understanding of their clients’ needs, they’ve been able to develop and introduce a number of groundbreaking products and services. One of the most notable of these is their “Electric Juice Network”, which was recently hailed as the ‘Best EV Innovation’ at the DrivingElectric Awards 2021. The system offers electric vehicle users a single way to pay for all their charging - regardless of whether that takes place at home, on the street, or on the highway. It’s the first time a retailer has been named at the awards7.
With so many advantages of customer centricity, the need to adopt the philosophy should be clear to any energy company wishing to stay at the head of the market.
So, How Do You Become Customer Centric?
Though the benefits of customer centricity are countless, it can be difficult for retailers to know how to put the approach into practice.
One of the key things to focus on, understandably, is optimising customer-facing systems. Consumers should feel that their concerns and questions can be addressed efficiently by a knowledgeable customer service team, and that they have a clear avenue through which to provide feedback (particularly about desired products and services). The retailer’s online resources should also be robust enough to seamlessly offer quotes and resolve issues.
Of course, with the recent surge in data collection, what consumers do can be just as valuable to your business as what they say. Smart meters and behind-the-meter devices allow retailers to glean insights into the behaviours and usage rates of their customers. From these, appropriate products and services can then be developed. This data also allows personalised power-reducing strategies to be created and sent to the individual user, saving them money and strengthening their bond with the business. It’s only by solving the real-world problems of customers that electricity businesses can create lasting brand-loyalty.
When the experiences, opinions, and data of each individual customer inform the culture, services and product delivery of the electricity company, results like those seen by Octopus Energy become achievable.
How Transformable Can Help
As energy industry experts, Transformable helps retailers and distributors adapt their business to an ever-changing electricity marketplace.
Organisations rely on us to provide comprehensive customer-centric solutions. Whether it's crafting efficient onboarding processes, implementing time and money-saving automations, developing CRMs to allow for a better customer experience, creating helpful on-site chat bots, or optimising the management of billing systems and data, Transformable is passionate about helping energy businesses become scalable through technology.
Discover how you can begin your transformation here. We look forward to helping you take advantage of the latest technologies, to become Transformable.